23-25 Leadenhall market, EC3V 1LR
Cost per person without wine: £38
THE Chamberlain’s and Thelwell family business has been around for 65 years. History like that can be enough to crush a new chef. Do you keep things the same and be accused of resting on your laurels, or make sweeping changes and risk alienating your clientele?
Andrew Jones, who joined Chamberlain’s from Claridges in November, expertly walks the tightrope, devising a menu that maintains a focus on freshly sourced produce while adding a modern flourish. His approach was clear from the beginning, when we were presented with a deliciously creamy oyster gratin – enough to win over my guest, a resolute oyster cynic who had secretly confided that I would have to sneakily chug any oysters that arrived on her plate. The excellent glass of Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve it came with may have helped.
Hot on its heels was a plump scallop with roasted parsnips – a wonderful combination of light and wholesome that sat somewhere between fine dining and your mother’s cooking on a particularly good day.
My guest’s foie gras was decadently melt-in-the-mouth and expertly paired with a glass of Sauternes Ginestet Bordeaux. Our waiter Jose – under the watchful eye of head of operations Alessio Bascherini – showed the kind of easy fluency with the wine list you’d expect from a top Mayfair members’ club.
Continuing the air of decadence (no doubt egged on by the sea of wine glasses accumulating around us), we squeezed another course in before the mains. I went for a baked fillet of lemon sole, which came delicately wrapped around scallop and served with a delicious – if rather artery-clogging – lobster cream. The almond-crusted fillet of halibut vanished so quickly from the plate opposite I can only hazard a guess that it was very good.
For my main: sea bass. It’s a tough dish to impress with, given how popular it has become – it’s rarely bad but it tends to be like kissing your wife rather than snogging your secretary. Jones, however, didn’t disappoint, grounding the lightness of the fish with hearty braised ox cheeks and a hazelnut dressing: more than enough to keep things interesting.
The wood pigeon my guest quickly devoured was cooked to perfection, served with a fascinating combination of baby leeks, apple and liquorice jus.
And just when I thought I had been defeated, a port-poached pear, stuffed with a divine stilton ice cream, arrived – a sumptuous way to tie up the proceedings.
If you’re a fish-lover and you haven’t been to Chamberlain’s yet, you should be ashamed of yourself.